The Big C: Indispensable Facts About Cancer

There are few words in the English language that are quite as chilling to hear as “cancer”. It’s something that we are all conditioned to fear, and it’s a diagnosis that is fused firmly in the human mind with death, or at least a particularly high risk of death. And yet in some ways, we know less than we realize about the realities of cancer. So to shine some light on a subject that is dark in so many ways, here are a few facts everyone should know about cancer…

There is not going to be a “cure” for cancer

Periodically, individuals and organizations with good intentions state that they are putting money or effort towards finding a cure for cancer. The truth of the matter is that there can probably never be such a thing. For one thing, there are many different types of cancer, and they affect people in different ways. You objectively cannot treat leukemia, a cancer of the blood, in the same way that you treat a malignant brain tumor. This does not mean that we can’t find ways and means to more successfully treat the various forms of cancer and improve survival and recovery rates.

Time is our strongest weapon against cancer

We know plenty about the most effective treatments that currently exist for cancer patients. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are among the most prominent, while a lot of effort is going into understanding how DNA repair works and other ways of recoding the human body. But the greatest luxury we can have in the fight against specific cases of cancer is early detection. If you see warning signs for a form of cancer, then it’s time to speak to your doctor. The further a cancer spreads, the fewer options there are for treating it; chemo and radiotherapy are effective, but they take a toll. Getting to it early and taking it out before it can spread is the key to effective treatment.

Nonetheless, rushing treatment isn’t a solution

Many people, while waiting for the results of tests, or on the presentation of such results, will be determined to move as fast as possible - because, as we’ve said ourselves, time is a significant factor in the treatability of a cancer. The extra bit of information we need to consider, however, is that we’ll often only get one chance to treat a cancer. Jumping ahead with treatments in the absence of key information and sequenced plans won’t help. Most specifically, it can mean that other options are taken off the table - options which could have been more beneficial, had we waited. So while it is frustrating to hold fire, patience is key.

Stage IV cancer is not a definitive death sentence

If “cancer” as a word is enough to terrify most people, then the ones who aren’t already frightened will usually at least pause at the addition of the phrase “stage four”. At this point, the cancer has spread to more distant parts of the body, and the prognosis is usually very severe, with treatment focusing on giving a patient additional time and/or quality of life before succumbing. However, stage IV is not a definitive terminal diagnosis. With treatment (and luck), it is possible to survive and even become cancer-free. In general, the likely outcome is still that a patient will die with cancer in their system - but it’s not a sure thing.

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